Navy’s issue with Norfolk airport’s runway plan is tied to waiver that airport leaders have never seen
October 3, 2019
Neighbors don’t always have to be neighborly, but it appears that Norfolk International Airport and Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek continue to make an effort.
After Rear Adm. Charles Rock wrote a letter to airport officials in July opposing plans to build a second runway that would have a flight path over his base, he and airport officials met Sept. 20 to talk.
Among the reasons Rock cited in his letter was a waiver between the Department of Defense and the Federal Aviation Administration. Thing is, airport officials – including executive director Robert Bowen, who has been with the airport for 31 years – had never heard of it.
The waiver, according to the admiral’s letter, allows for ordnance handling and ammunition and explosives storage within an area that would otherwise be prohibited because of the proximity to the airport’s runways.
Bowen and Norfolk Airport Authority chair Malcolm Branch said they were told that Rock would work to get a copy of the waiver to them, “so that we understand, since we were never a party to that.”
In addition, leaders at both the base and the airport are hoping to arrange a meeting of FAA, Navy and airport officials to work out issues as the airport plans for a future that could include a second runway when demand warrants it.
Bowen and Branch said part of Little Creek’s opposition may be related to increased Defense Department investments in the base’s Navy Seal program, as well as more amphibious ships stationed there with taller masts.
Bowen and Branch said they were pleased with their meeting with Rock, calling it a collegial back-and-forth that was scheduled for a half hour but lasted for 90 minutes.
“The admiral couldn’t have been nicer or more complimentary about the transparency between the airport and Little Creek,” Branch said.
“He understands we don’t have to do that, but it’s important to us and it’s important to them that we stay close.”
Navy Region Mid-Atlantic spokeswoman Beth Baker agreed with the meeting’s characterization, saying the two sides are hoping to reach a “win-win” solution.
“We’ve always been a good partner with the airport,” she said.